Shared Dreams and Mutual Dreaming Are Real
Shared Dreams: More than a Hollywood Myth
Hollywood loves to blow your mind. The mantra might as well be “the more controversial or “out there, the better.” But only out there so far, because somewhere in the back of a viewer’s mind a decision is made when watching or reading something fictional. That they’ll follow along with the story or not. I think that’s the bar set to judge a dream as meaningful. Does the story engage you enough to play along?
The indie movie “In a Dream” tells the story of a woman who is sure that the man in her dreams is a living person. Shows such as Falling Water at USA Network and Westworld at HBO play on the idea of dreams being more than just nightly image parades or even meaningful reflections on our lives. They push the idea that dreams connect to something deeper, something shared in our human experiences and our consciousness that connects everyone and everything together.
Well, do they? I say yes, but give me a minute to get to that.
Shared dreams, aka mutual dreaming, is one of those mind-blowing ideas, lassoed especially well by Falling Water to drive the entire storyline. It’s one of those subjects from the fringe that are neither strongly accepted nor strongly denied. For most people, the answer to “do people ever share dreams,” the answer is “well, I suppose it could happen.” Many people report experiencing it at some time in their life, especially while young.
But Is Shared Dreaming Real?
In this case, Hollywood might not be far from the truth with it portrays shared dreams — at least, the basic premise. Two or more people have the same dream seen from their own perspective, identical in imagery and action or close to it (people experience some variations in how their mind translates the data into imagery). They can become “lucid” and communicate directly, aware that they’re dreaming. Two people can share the dream, or 2,000.
If you believe what physicist Tom Campbell and other people say they have done, advanced dreamers can intend to fall asleep and “wake up” in a dream then go looking for each other in the dreamscape. Campbell did it while working with Robert Monroe and has spoken extensively about it. In most other reports of shared dreaming, it happens spontaneously, especially among family members.
The reports we can use to build a conclusive case for the existence of shared dreams come from laboratory environments and scientific protocols used at places such as Monroe, Mamomadeis, and dream research centers and institutions around the world. The many researchers who report positive and even conclusive results are either totally bonkers or completely truthful.
We’ll get to some accounts of mutual dreaming I have run across “in the wild,” mostly at the forums of reddit.com, where I run r/dreams the dream forum. For now though, I want to introduce you to Ian Wilson, who can induce a lucid dreaming state while also aware of “reality” and semi-awake.
In this video you see Ian touching the mesh grid he sees in his mind that’s the root level of what we know as reality. It works the same as rendering computer video, beginning with a basic mesh grid and layering more detail till it looks like full 3-D reality at stage six (see below). Ian grabs and holds to the first stage — the basic mesh grid stage — and interacts with it, causing the effect seen in the video. Ian also claims to have left a specific mark on a friend’s forehead in a dream and have it show up — faintly — in reality.
Dreamland and physical reality exist in parallel
He is convinced that dreaming and physical reality are intimately connected and the one is able to be affected tangibly by the other. What happens in one affects the other in sometimes deeply meaningful ways.
Ian shows a physical effect in his video, but people report shared dream and other dream states that affect future events, reveal hidden information, and create “synchronicities” — meaningful coincidences. Objects manifest. Nature responds as if it knows what’s up. People appear and disappear. Signs are given that some mysterious force behind the scene responds to them and even aids their endeavors.
Ian learned to lucid dream as a child and has practiced at an advanced level for the past 30 years, so what he can do while awake during the first stage of sleep is not likely to be found in many other people. But perhaps the interaction with physical reality while dreaming is mostly subconscious and absorbed into the larger reality system that evidently exists (our reality might be one of many realities or even an infinite number, or one part of a spectrum of one reality with many layers). Now the acceptance that the dream state can be shared the same as the waking state (“our shared reality”) is only a step away, after showing that they exist in parallel.
And it means we all can share dreams and dream states. We might do it all the time and have no idea it happens. Most people barely remember their dreams and even people with tremendous recall are likely to forget some of them.
Shared dreaming is still an “out there” notion despite the evidence
Mutual dreaming sounds shocking to the mainstream but it’s widely accepted in other cultures. Especially so in small, close groups such as the Aborigines of Australia. Shared dreaming is a fact of their life. And it’s found everywhere, from suburb to inner city to out in the heartland. You just have to know where to look, and the most likely place for feeling comfortable sharing such an experience is an anonymous internet forum such as Reddit Dreams.
That’s where I come in. For the past few years I’ve had an eye out for shared dreaming reports. Here are a few, summarized:
A family of five shared a dream about going to Central Park in NYC and walking through a skyscraper-high rectangular stone gateway that transported them to Ybisu Gardens in Tokyo, where they reunited with their dad and continued a family vacation which had been cut short. Strike that. Four members shared that entire dream experience. The fifth member, dad, was in Tokyo and dreamed that morning about his family stepping through a rectangular gateway at Ybisu Gardens and joining him to continue their vacation.
Three members of a family sleeping in the same house on the night after a dear family member died all dreamed about that person coming to them and giving the same message.
A wife reported that she participated in her husband’s adventure-game dreams almost nightly. When they wake up they compare notes of what happened while dreaming and usually it’s identical.
Two close friends first noticed how many of their dreams featured each other and were the same. They suspected they were mutual dreaming and tested it by thinking of information to pass the next time the one saw the other in a dream.They each thought of a phrase the other wouldn’t know. For one of them it was a song lyric. For the other it was a nonsense phrase. Subsequently, one dreamer saw the other and passed along the lyrics to an obscure song. The other sent the nonsense phrase via text message. Then they got together.
Author Robert Moss, a guru of dream study and practice, reports similar experiences.
Back to Hollywood and the debate over what’s real
Good Hollywood storytelling that stretches the imagination straddles the line between “it could happen” and “there’s no way it could happen.” Run with an idea, a premise, and enough people believe it, you could have a hit show or movie. Movies such Lucy (we only use 10% of our brains) and Sixth Sense (gifted people can talk to dead people) reach into that grey and base entire stories on it. Millions of dollars are spent to push those ideas out to the public and attempt to catch hold in the popular imagination. The Matrix Trilogy had great success by being the first to popularize a concept of a computer-generated reality long before the scientific community actually started seriously debating the idea.
Accepting the fact of shared dreaming opens a whole field of study and application. I’m sure some gov’t agency out there like DARPA would be interested in a method of conveying information over any distance without use of any sort of communications equipment. Or even to have the ability to enter another person’s dream and influence them, a la the mother of all recent speculative dream-based stories, Inception. However, the mechanism doesn’t always work as expected so the reliability isn’t 100%. The friend who passed the lyric and nonsense phrase did so on different nights. The dreams weren’t “shared” in the traditional sense. The father in Ybisu Gardens slept at a different time than his family.
Perhaps, like Blake Masters, the creator of Falling Water, says “What if all of our individual dreams are part of one giant dream we all dream together.” He says that water is used as a recurring symbol in the show when the characters pass from the waking world to the shared dream world because water is a permeable barrier.
Dr. Carl Jung theorized that all minds are connected together by the collective unconscious. It’s a shared mind that connects everyone and even connects all time from present to the origins of the human species and beyond. Perhaps his most controversial theory, the collective unconscious is generally accepted but not given a lot of attention these days. The questions it raises make most scientists uncomfortable.
But not in Hollywood. It’s the sort of theory that can launch a tv or movie franchise.
Years ago I began compiling reports of shared dream experiences at reddit. They’re available in the archives.